Home on the Range

“Xeriscape (native plants) won’t work with this kind of architecture.”
– ex-clients


I don’t agree, either. That Alpine TX front garden is simple yet interesting, but it does take some savvy. Which is easy if one steps back and organizes just a little.

Hence a reason I drove 4 hours SE instead of 3 hours N…

My last day in Marfa, I cruised down Ranch Road 2810 aka Pinto Canyon Road, which leads far beyond town to the south.


Had I driven one more mile, I might have never returned home to my job – too alluring. So, I turned around at this modern version of a Texas ranch gate.


There’s a house way back, so large it’s actually in scale with the vast scenery.

Returning, I saw this before the drive home.



Across town, these neighboring houses…


Agave parryi var. truncata is a ball-like sculpture with a regular spacing, adding interest to the other plant massing.



I like the idea of walking through a gate and an Opuntia ellisiana hedge.


A former industrial building is now someone’s house. Good use of Fouquieria splendens and Agave scabra.



Alpine Break

I needed a break from the “Jonestown of Minimalism”, a term from a humorous print on Marfa tourism.


Though Alpine is lower than Marfa’s lofty 4700 feet, it is still a few feet higher than my place in Las Cruces…last weekend was over 10F cooler than my home’s 105. And compared to 119 in Phoenix or 123 in Laughlin it was downright…alpine.


This general store sells plants some days, and I was telling the woman with them how her’s are the only Penstemon baccharifolius my area has had success with – those with prickly leaf margins from seed collected nearby in Brewster County.

Those are from arid areas, while the smooth-leafed ones appear to be from the humid lands of the southern Hill Country all we can buy now.


My former home was a testament to the prickly-leafed selection’s toughness – those planted in 1998 were still flowering 15 years later when I moved on, though they were starting to wear out. Concurrently, I lost 2 rounds of at least 5 of the smooth-leafed selection each time.


Since I was 30 minutes west of their Jonestown enjoying some excellent brisket, but instead of Kool-aid I washed it all down with a cold Big Bend #22 Porter!

Before returning to Marfa, it was time to look at some streetscape plantings under better light than I’ve had other visits.

Containers of Hesperaloe funifera with Dichondra argentea, and other containers with annuals and an Agave americana.


Right where people get out of their cars. “The children!” <snark>

This is an effective planting, grounded in a local and ecoregional sense-of-place. I know where I am here.

Opuntia ellisiana in street side planters…


…even Fallugia paradoxa in other rock planters.


Other storefront planters filled with Opuntia microdasys, Nasella tenuissima, and Yucca thompsoniana.


No gestures to elsewhere, so perhaps people like the Alpine region, even if it is a 200 mile radius.


More murals of cacti and scenes of romance and toughness.


That might be Andres serenading Laurita, after her tending their garden somewhere in the shadow of Mount Hood near the Mexican border. Hopefully he’s about to bring out some chilled white wine or margaritas.


Pine, horses, and steer: it doesn’t get more western than this.


But wide-open scenery with agaves and cattle, or margaritas and steak: it doesn’t get much better than that!

Lodge On the Desert Grassland

A client in Marfa told me how their new 4 story hotel is actually causing more tourism there than the no vacancy signs it may have alleviated. Another man I met on a sidewalk who retired there in the late 1990’s from Louisiana via Houston, noted how Marfa has become too busy and has lost its quiet charm.

You may laugh if you see tiny, isolated Marfa on a map.

Both people above are really saying something. Both accounts seem like a mixed blessing, though perhaps more bad than good.

I found something off the beaten track, to stay at.


Greeted by Agave scabra in small gravel, plus a hipster panel gate.

Once inside, it was very quiet and private, making up for the week-long convection oven this whole region has been in. Dry heat – ha!



This was a good place to sip coffee before heading out for the day.



A lone Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Yellow’ stalk…



Inside, thick adobe walls offer their typical sound dampening qualities and solace.


I had a mostly-good trip, though I concur with the Louisiana man.

The influx of immigration into Marfa is not all bad or good, but it is not the same as people once again “pioneering” that area. It is much about commodifying.

Really – must saving a dying place always shut out more than not?